Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > New York City History > 45. Abraham Lincoln

45.  Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).  Manuscript letter in John Hay's hand, signed by Lincoln, to Columbia University President Charles King. Washington, D.C., June 26, 1861. RBML, Columbia College Papers

At commencement exercises held at the Academy of Music on June 27, 1861, President King announced that the University was conferring an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on President Lincoln. Preoccupied by the events of the Civil War, Lincoln could not travel to New York to receive the degree, so Professor Francis Lieber was sent to Washington to present the diploma. Lincoln wrote to President King to thank him for the honor. Signed by Lincoln, the text of the letter is in the hand of John Hay, one of Lincoln's two private secretaries. The divisiveness of the Civil War, as well as the election of 1860, was doubtless in the President's thoughts when he wrote of preserving the country's institutions and of the honor being a gesture of "confidence and good will," awarded two months after the war began.

Gift of Janet Haldane and her children, 1983

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